An incantatory surge drives this simple story to an inspired place far beyond the elemental confines of the plot. Empathic watercolor illustrations depict a preschooler’s introduction to kindergarten; she goes on tiptoe into her older brother’s classroom: “I can be/so very still. Hiding, hiding,/I can watch now/what they’re doing/all day long.” As she explores, she gets drawn in, “On the chalkboard/I make letters/Take my turn/when they are done.” Sometimes the girl investigates on her own, with blocks and puzzles and a search for the bathroom; other times there is distant engagement: “Singing songs now/jumpy songs now/Clapping hands/and stomping feet.” By the end of the day, the girl is ready for her own first day in kindergarten, sometime soon. Children will doubtless appreciate not just the defusing of kindergarten angst, but the compassionate, vivid musicality of Rogers’s pages as well. (Picture book. 4-6)
Toddler-size sleuths can match cheerful barnyard animals to their appropriate sounds in this sparkling board book from Wojtowycz. Each spread features the typical habitat for a familiar animal, such as a grassy paddock or a clear blue lake. One page frames the question about a typical animal sound, such as, “Who says . . . Oink Oink?” The answer will be one of four friendly farm animals—duck, cow, pig, and horse—suspended on a colored ribbon, which can be placed into a slot on the facing page. Jewel tones dominate the illustrations; the color-coordinated ribbons provide additional clues to the correct answers. Deceptively simple in appearance, this wonderfully resourceful book is packed with learning opportunities, including reading, since every creature is labeled on one side with its name. An engaging first look at some favorite animals of the toddler set. (Board book. 2-5)
Masterworks Of Latin American Short Fiction ($25.00; Oct. 1996; 400 pp.; 0-06-431502-9): A wonderful gathering of eight novellas, prefaced by a lengthy and knowledgeable introduction by Ilan Stavans, including rarely seen fiction from several of the greatest (and most neglected) modern and contemporary Latin American masters. Only Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez's deliciously fantastic ``The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother'' is at all familiar—and readers who appreciate his trademark magical realism will find brilliant variations on it in such memorable tales as Joo Guimares Rosa's ``My Uncle, the Jaguar'' (set in the Brazilian ``backlands'' immortalized in his novels and stories), Julio Cortazar's quicksilver portrayal of a jazz musician seemingly based on the figure of Charlie Parker (``The Pursuer''), and Felisberto Hernandez's ``The Daisy Dolls,'' a gothic surrealist fantasy reminiscent (and very nearly worthy) of Kafka. An invaluable anthology.